TECHNOLOGY : Computer Chip Sales to Be Flat in '90, Trade Group Says

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Semiconductor Industry Assn. said Wednesday that worldwide sales of computer chips will show almost no growth for 1990, another indication that the high-technology sector is feeling the effects of the weak economy.

In its annual market forecast, the industry trade group projected 1990 semiconductor sales of all manufacturers worldwide at $49.5 billion, up only slightly from $48.8 billion in 1989. But the SIA was extremely optimistic about the future, projecting a 12.5% increase to $55.7 billion for 1991 and sales reaching $75.2 billion by 1993.

Gilbert F. Amelio, president of Rockwell Communications Systems, who presented the SIA report to an industry conference here, acknowledged that the group's predictions were based on the assumption that the economy will grow by 2% to 3% next year, rather than slipping into recession, as many economists predict.

He attributed slow sales this year to weakness in the computer business, but added, "We've seen some signs that that is going to get better." Many analysts believe, however, that computer sales will remain weak next year.

Computer companies are the biggest customers for semiconductors, the tiny silicon chips that power computers and many other electronic products.

Chip sales in the United States and Japan, by far the largest markets, will actually decline this year, with all the growth coming from Europe and less-developed countries, the SIA said. The chip slowdown, which many analysts had expected, follows two years of strong growth in the notoriously cyclical business.

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